As of Thursday, authorities had seized  ₹607.32 crore in cash, liquor worth  ₹198.71 crore, and drugs and narcotics worth  ₹1,091.67 crore. (Photo by Pradeep Gaur; Graphic by Ahmed Raza Khan/Mint)
As of Thursday, authorities had seized 607.32 crore in cash, liquor worth 198.71 crore, and drugs and narcotics worth 1,091.67 crore. (Photo by Pradeep Gaur; Graphic by Ahmed Raza Khan/Mint)

Elections 2019: Voter turnout stays high in controversy-marred Phase 1

  • Election Commission says voter turnout in Phase 1 of 2019 Lok Sabha elections matches 2014 numbers
  • Election Commission faces complaints over missing voters' names, delible voter ink and faulty EVMs

New Delhi: Lok Sabha Elections 2019 kicked off on Thursday matching the high voter turnout of the previous national polls, but the day was marred by violence that claimed two lives, and complaints over damaged EVMs and missing voters’ names.

Voters in 91 seats across 18 states and 2 union territories queued up at polling booths from early morning to vote in Phase 1 of the electoral test for the Narendra Modi government. Six more phases of polling remain, spread over a little more than a month, before votes are counted on 23 May to decide the shape of the 17th Parliament.

“It is approximately the same polling percentage as last time (2014 Lok Sabha elections)," Umesh Sinha, senior deputy election commissioner, told reporters on Thursday evening. Most of the figures provided by the Election Commission (EC) were from early evening (either 5pm or 6pm) and the poll watchdog said the numbers would go up when updates come in.

Of the eight states that faced single-phase polling on Thursday, Telangana saw a turnout of 60%, Andhra Pradesh 66% and Uttarakhand 57.85%. In 2014, undivided Andhra Pradesh had a turnout of 74.64%, while Uttarakhand had a turnout of 61.67%.

All north-eastern states that went to polls on Thursday saw a turnout of over 60%, Tripura being the highest at 81.8%. West Bengal, where two parliamentary seats went to polls, saw a high turnout of 81%.

The day was, however, marked by controversy—some voters complained on social media that the ink had begun fading within hours of voting.

EC said it stood by the “high standards" of the ink, but sought a report from its district electoral officer. “It does not happen that it can disappear after three hours. The ink has its own standing in our election process," said Chandra Bhushan Kumar, deputy election commissioner.

Thursday also witnessed at least 15 cases of EVM damage, including six from Andhra Pradesh. While EC said that such damages on a single day were “not unprecedented", the development is crucial because one such case involved a candidate, Madhusudan Gupta of the Jana Sena Party, who was arrested for smashing an EVM in Guntakal.

“Due legal process has started in these cases, which falls under damage to election material, obstruction to electoral process and punishments under the Indian Penal Code," said Sinha.

There were also complaints by some voters about their names missing in the electoral rolls. When asked to respond to it, Kumar said the poll watchdog was running a number of programmes to verify electoral lists.

As of Thursday, authorities had seized 607.32 crore in cash, liquor worth 198.71 crore, and drugs and narcotics worth 1,091.67 crore.

The politically crucial state of Uttar Pradesh registered 63.69% turnout in the first phase in which the fate of at least three Union ministers—V.K. Singh from Ghaziabad, Mahesh Sharma from Gautam Budh Nagar and Satyapal Singh from Baghpat—would be decided.

There were reports of violence from Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra and Chhattisgarh. According to a report by the Press Trust of India, a Telugu Desam Party worker and a YSR Congress worker were killed in a clash in Tadipatri assembly constituency of Andhra Pradesh.

In Maharashtra, Naxals triggered a bomb blast near a polling booth in Waghezari area of Gadchiroli district while voting was underway.

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